Ólavsøka in Tórshavn

imageI arrived in Tórshavn in the dark of night, which was unusual for this time of year when the days are so long. I expected the town to be dead at this time, which it was around the ferry, but as I wandered into town I ran into the revellers of Ólavsøka.

Getting in and where I stayed

The Norröna ferry took me from Seyðisfjörður, Iceland and dropped me off the next morning in Tórshavn at the pleasant hour of 3am. Travelling this direction around the world sucks. I’d lost an hour and had very little sleep, but what the hell, let’s go exploring.

The Tórshavn Campsite was a 15 minute walk (everything in Tórshavn is a 15 minute walk) north along the coastal road. Due to some crazy festival the campsite was charging double (190DKK up from 95DKK) so I elected to stay just one night. The most ridiculously expensive campsite I have ever paid for, but at least they had super modern and clean facilities.

Hostels are meant to be between 250-300DKK and I’d hate to know what they cost during the festival.

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Tórshavn from above the ferry terminal

All hail the King!

As I walked into town at about 4am, a bunch of party goers were on their way home. I steered clear at first, never sure how drunk groups like this will react, but in the end we started talking and they were pretty friendly guys.

It was the biggest party of the year, Ólavsøka (28-30 July). Two enormous days of drinking, dancing, rowing and celebration to remember the death of King (and Saint) Ólaf who Christianised the islands. The guys told me he liberated them from Norway, I’m not sure who remembers the story properly, but anyway.

We walked back into town and into quite a large turn out for this time of morning in the city of a country with only 50,000 people. Loads of revellers were proudly wearing their national dress. It’s pretty a old school style, but at the same time it still looks pretty badass. Look it up.

We hung out in town until about 6am at which point I figured I was too far behind to follow this crowd much longer and I left to explore Tinganes – the old waterfront.

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The harbour front, the home of Viking parliament in 850 AD and now Faroese parliament

I was surprised to see so many tiny houses hidden in this little peninsula and lots looked like they were still very much lived in. The turf on top is odd, but presumably insulates and the black is also a bit bleak, but I guess it might absorb the sun’s warmth (this is a rather cold place).

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Old houses on the Tinganes peninsula

I also tried to get to the Faroese Cultural Museum, but after walking in the rain for 15 minutes it turned out that I had ended up at the Art Museum instead. It wasn’t that important to get to the Cultural Museum though and they were probably closed due to the holiday anyway. I just wanted to get some snaps of the traditional outfits without looking like a perve.

What was important was that I needed to buy food, but the SMS shopping mall and supermarkets were closed due to the national holiday. Only petrol station type places were open and they weren’t great for food to take trekking, but at least the campsite had a kitchen were I could cook that night.

I walked around town for a little while, but needless to say I was to knackered for a big night out and after enjoying the privilege of WiFi in my tent and some Bailey’s with fellow campers I slept early.

A half-day trip to Kirkjubøur

Kirkjubøur is a tiny village of just 70 odd people south of Tórshavn, and you’d think even less people lived there given how quiet it was.

There was no direct bus on the weekend, but I was still able to catch one of the #101 SSL buses towards the ferry at Gamlarætt nearby for 20DKK. The bus map has no street names it seems, so I just had to make an educated guess that it would take the main road past SMS and waited in a local bus stop. Thankfully it came and the driver also dropped me as close to Kirkjubøur as he could.

It was just a 15 minute walk and there was no one around. Such a pleasant change from the busy tourist mess of Iceland.

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While walking into town the weather played games with the landscape and revealing bits and pieces

At first, I saw no one but these two horses. I didn’t even see a villager, but later another older couple arrived in a rental car. It was still very peaceful though.

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No one to be seen except these two

The town is known for the ruins of a very old cathedral. As with most relics from it’s age it was covered in scaffolding, so I admired the new church and old houses instead.

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The new church and old houses in Kirkjubøur

You can of course walk to Kirkjubøur from Tórshavn, but to make the most of time (you never can trust the good weather windows here) I took the bus there with the intention of walking just one-way back.

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A map of the walking trail

The track was a traverse and so I found my own, more interesting, path over the top. There were some nice views of the surrounds and a bunch of seemingly lifeless mountain tarns.

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Mountain tarns overlooking the other islands and the sea

The path over the top was certainly much slower and tougher. When I was finally back on the edge of Tórshavn I had to negotiate the rock falls and jump some fences into the suburbs.

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The view of Tórshavn from the mountains

It started raining of course, so I jumped on a passing public bus. The buses are free in Tórshavn, I can’t say I’ve ever seen that before for an entire city. They have a very good public transport system compared to Canberra (which is 8 times the country’s population) yet they are much smaller and have much more complicated mountains, tunnels and oceans to negotiate. Taxes must be as high here as Denmark.

Getting out

All SSL bus and ferry routes connect to Tórshavn one way or another. With the campsite prices sky high I decided it would be better to move on to Vágar.

So I wandered down to the ferry terminal hoping (again no information on where the bus station was and Google was useless) it was also the bus terminal (and it was) and I hopped on the 300 bus bound for Sørvagur and the airport.

My next stop was Giljanes to start a hike from Sandavágur to Gásadalur (via Slættanes).

To see the parent blog for my trip to the Faroe Islands click here.

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